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The U.S. Department of Labor/OSHA recently finalized their updated rules for general industry walking-working surfaces standards pertaining to slipping, tripping and fall hazards. The new rules do not affect construction or agriculture standards. There’s also a new section in the Personal Protective Equipment standards that explains employer requirements and responsibilities regarding personal fall protections systems.

“The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls.” The final rule increases consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both.

OSHA estimates that these new standards will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule goes into effect on Jan. 17, 2017, and will affect approximately 112 million workers at seven million work sites.

OSHA says while the standards are stringent enough to save lives and keep employees safe, they also offer a new flexibility to employers in choosing protective gear and guards. One of the most significant updates to the OSHA rules is about allowing employers to select the fall protection system, from a pool of OSHA accepted options, that include personal fall protection systems. OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994 and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry.

Some of the other changes that will affect many employees include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level; prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system; and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.

Most of the rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but certain provisions have delayed effective dates, including:

  • Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (6 months),
  • Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (6 months),
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (1 year),
  • Installing personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on replacement ladders/ladder sections, including fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures (2 years),
  • Ensuring existing fixed ladders over 24 feet, including those on outdoor advertising structures, are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder safety system (2 years), and
  • Replacing cages and wells (used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet (20 years) To see more about the new OSHA guidelines, see their website.

Stop-Painting believes another part of keeping employees safe is reminding them with visual cues to use proper equipment and have visually instructive floor signs and floor tape throughout a workplace. We can help you keep your employees safe and offer an enormous inventory of signs and floor tape. Call us today to help or visit our online store.